Scoliosis Corset

We've discussed the use of braces to treat scoliosis quite a few times on this blog, but are you aware of just how many different types of scoliosis brace there are? From the Boston brace to the Gensignen brace, there are many options available to scoliosis patients and the medical professionals responsible for treating them.

Today, we're going to look at a type of soft scoliosis brace called a corset brace.

What is a corset brace?

If you've seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you know what a corset is: a tight-fitting undergarment that wraps around the torso, shaping the wearer's figure. Corsets were common from the mid-16th century onwards, although they have long had a reputation for being very uncomfortable and they're not worn very often nowadays.

A medical corset (of the kind that might be used to treat scoliosis) has much in common with a regular corset: it's made of fabric (usually cotton or nylon) and tightened with laces. Some are reinforced with metal bars.

Just as a corset worn for fashion purposes shapes the figure in a certain way, a scoliosis corset shapes the body in order to help correct and/or alleviate the spinal curvature and its symptoms.

How do corsets help with scoliosis?

The scoliosis brace has two functions:

  • Reduce the weight / stress being placed on certain areas of the spine
  • Restrict movement, preventing postures that might harm the spine further

Whereas a rigid scoliosis brace (e.g. a Boston or Milwaukee brace) aims to prevent the wearer's spinal curve from progressing as they grow, a soft corset brace focuses more on alleviating pressure and creating conditions that are conducive to faster healing. For instance, they are sometimes used to help patients recovery from scoliosis surgery.

Alternatives to bracing

While bracing can be useful for limiting the effects of scoliosis, it is generally not the most effective treatment method available - not on its own, at least.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we frequently treat scoliosis patients who wear (or have previously worn) braces to help with their condition. However, our ScolioGold treatment programme has also proven to be an effective alternative to bracing in that it can:

  • Reverse the progression of spinal curvature (see our results page)
  • Reduce pain and stiffness
  • Improve mobility and muscle balance
  • Boost overall quality of life

If you're interested in getting treated at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, please take a look at our upcoming course dates or get in touch to book an initial consultation.

Further reading:

Nobody has a perfectly straight backbone. It is normal to have slight sagittal spinal curvature that forms a sort of gentle 'S' shape, as shown here:

Normal curvature of the spine

A 'normal' spine as viewed from the side, front and back

In this blog post, we will look at what constitutes a 'normal' curvature of the spine and what is classed as an abnormal / excessive curvature. 

Normal Curvature of the Spine

A normal curvature of the spine appears in the neck and lower back areas of the spine. When viewed from the side, these soft curves bend forward at the neck (cervical) section and outwards in the lower half (lumbar) of the spine. These normal curvatures of the spine help to distribute bodily stress more evenly during rest and movement.

These curves balance each other out, so your head should be aligned with your hips when standing up straight. This position works to minimise the effect of gravity and allows you to have good posture when moving around.

A healthy spine with a normal curvature should still be centred on the pelvis, and more or less straight when viewed from behind. While most people have a slight sideways curve, the spine should not curve more than 10 degrees to the left or right. 

Abnormal Curvatures of the Spine

An abnormal curvature of the spine can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Scoliosis - Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine to the left or right (or both). Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulder blades, hips and rib humps.

  • Hyperlordosis - Hyperlordosis is an excessive forward curvature of the lower spine, making it appear that the patient's stomach and rear are sticking out.

  • Hyperkyphosis - Hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, often resulting in a 'hunchback' appearance.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to go and see a GP before the curvature progresses any further. Unfortunately, in most cases, the condition will not improve by itself and will require treatment.

Flat Back Syndrome

It is also possible to have an abnormally small sagittal curvature of the spine. Flat back syndrome refers to a straightening of the spinal cord, usually in the thoracic (upper) part of the spine, resulting in an overall imbalance.

The surgical methods used to treat scoliosis from the 1960s to the 1980s are often cited as the cause of this problem, but modern techniques mean that flat back syndrome is far less common nowadays. Other causes of flat back syndrome include degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, ankylosing spondylitis and post-laminectomy syndrome.

If you think you may have a spinal abnormality, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is dedicated to treating these conditions through exercise-based physical therapy. Click here to find out more about our treatment method, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

When is Scoliosis Diagnosed

Scoliosis can occur at any stage of life, and the patient's symptoms at time of diagnosis can vary hugely from one case to the next: one person might be entirely unaware of their spinal curvature until a doctor spots it on an X-ray, while the next person might be suffering from extreme pain and greatly reduced mobility.

Today, we'd like to answer two different (but related) questions: what will a doctor look for when diagnosing whether a patient has scoliosis, and at what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

What do doctors look for when diagnosing scoliosis?

The first step to finding out whether or not you have scoliosis is visiting your GP, who will conduct an examination to see if you have an abnormally curved spine. Your GP will look for a number of different symptoms that may indicate the presence of scoliosis, including:

  • Uneven shoulder blades
  • Uneven hips
  • Leaning to one side
  • Back pain
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Breathing problems

If your GP suspects that you may be suffering from scoliosis, you will be referred to the hospital for an X-ray scan. The images obtained during this scan will then be analysed by the hospital doctor, and this is when you will receive your scoliosis diagnosis if your spine is abnormally curved.

(Remember, every spine is slightly curved - you will only be diagnosed with scoliosis if the angle of your spinal curve exceeds 10 degrees.)

After you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, the next step is to attend a specialist consultation to discuss the best treatment route for your spinal condition.

At what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

Scoliosis affects people of all ages, and some people go many years before receiving a diagnosis. That said, idiopathic scoliosis - the most common form of scoliosis - is usually diagnosed when the patient is between 10 and 15 years old. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, yet it accounts for around 80% of all cases.

In some cases, scoliosis can also be diagnosed earlier in the patient's life - for example, children who suffer from cerebral palsy may develop scoliosis as a result of this condition.

Scoliosis also affects adults and the elderly. Some cases of idiopathic scoliosis are not diagnosed until adulthood, but there is also degenerative scoliosis, which occurs later in life due to the ageing process.

If you are looking for an effective non-surgical scoliosis treatment option, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation.

We treat a number of different spinal conditions here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and one condition that we see more infrequently is congenital kyphosis.

The most common causes of hyperkyphosis - an abnormally prominent forward curvature of the spine - are poor posture and old age. Congenital kyphosis, however, begins to develop before birth, usually within the first 6-8 weeks of embryonic development. A certain genetic defect seems to affect how the vertebrae and discs develop, pushing the spine forward at an angle. When this happens, the baby will be born with vertebrae that have not formed properly, or with multiple vertebrae joined together, causing the spine to curve forward.

Congenital Kyphosis Treatment

How to treat congenital kyphosis

As with other curvatures of the spine, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for congenital kyphosis. The right treatment plan depends on the particulars of the case at hand.

As congenital kyphosis develops before birth, it is often treated when the patient is very young. For that reason, doctors will sometimes advise waiting to see if the child's back corrects itself during growth, closely monitoring the angle of the spine over time.

In other cases, the severity of the condition may lead to a decision that spinal fusion surgery is necessary to stop the curve from developing any further. This is a major (though generally safe) operation that not everyone is comfortable with, particularly when the patient is so young.

There are alternatives to surgery - exercise-based programmes such as our own ScolioGold method (which combines a number of physiotherapy exercises and techniques to help the patient with the symptoms of their spinal curvature) can be very effective in the right circumstances. Physical therapy aims to reduce the angle of the patient's spinal curve, ameliorate symptoms such as pain and stiffness, and help with the patient's body image / self-confidence. Click here to see some before and after pictures of our hyperkyphosis patients.

If you would like to attend a consultation at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic and find out more about our hyperkyphosis treatment courses, we would be more than happy to welcome you. We can also conduct remote consultations via Skype or over the phone if you live far away. Get in touch today to arrange your consultation.

Scoliosis sufferers in the Republic of Ireland have faced significant difficulties in recent years. While treatment is freely available through the Health Service Executive (HSE), many scoliosis patients have been forced to wait months or even years for crucial procedures such as spinal fusion surgery. This situation has been dubbed 'unacceptable' by figures within the Irish government, and some people with curved spines have found themselves struggling with pain, depression and reduced mobility as a result of the long wait times.

However, the HSE recently announced that overall health funding would increase by more than €600 million in 2018, with €9 million earmarked specifically for "the expansion of paediatric/adolescent orthopaedic services, including scoliosis". Minister for Health Simon Harris (pictured below) welcomed the increased investment, adding that 2018 would be "the fourth year in a row where significant additional resources have been allocated" to Ireland's health service.

Minister for Health Simon Harris

Simon Harris, Ireland's Minister for Health (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

HSE director general Tony O'Brien had a more cautious response to the news, warning (according to The Irish Times) that the HSE still faces "a very significant financial challenge in 2018" due to the increasing cost of delivering treatment and other services.

Scoliosis treatment at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic

We've treated countless patients from other countries here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, and perhaps as a result of the aforementioned long waiting lists, a significant number of those patients have come to us from the Republic of Ireland.

We provide specialist non-surgical treatment for scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. Our unique ScolioGold treatment programme incorporates a wide variety of effective exercise-based techniques from all over the world, and has proven extremely effective at reducing curve angle, improving mobility and muscle balance, and boosting overall quality of life.

Molly Garvey is one scoliosis patient who came from Ireland to our clinic in England - watch the video below to hear her story.

If you'd like to arrange a consultation with the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, please click here to get in touch.